The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a global level entrance test that is considered a criterion for admission to universities abroad. More than 1000 universities accept the GRE score globally, which makes this test more competitive. The test is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is offered in two formats — General test and Subject test. Most importantly, proper preparation and planning is required to score high in the GRE exam. The first step towards your preparation is understanding the GRE syllabus


The syllabus helps you understand the content of questions asked in the exam. Besides, the GRE subject tests and General tests have separate syllabuses. First, let us take a look at the general test syllabus. 


GRE General Test Syllabus


The GRE General test consists of six measures — One Analytical Writing section, two quantitative sections, two sections of verbal reasoning, and an additional unscored section. Analytical Writing always appears first in the exam, while the other sections follow any order.


Here’s a brief overview of each section in the GRE syllabus 2021


  1. Analytical Writing – The Analytical Writing section consists of two separately timed writing tasks — Analyze an Issue and Analyze an argument with 30 minutes duration each. Each task tests your ability to evaluate and examine the arguments and provide focused responses based on that. Here’s a brief overview of each task:  
  • Analyze an Issue – The task provides an issue that can be discussed from various perspectives. You must carefully analyze the issue, write your response regarding the topic and present specific examples to support your claims. The task measures how well you critically think about a topic and express your opinion in writing. 
  • Analyze an Argument – Unlike the Analyze an Issue task, here you are provided with a short passage, in which the author presents a claim backed by evidence and reasons. You must critically analyze the given evidence by the author and write whether it is logically correct or not. 


The objectives of these two tasks are different. Analyze-an-issue task requires you to construct an argument and provide evidence and reasons to support your argument, wherein, the second task asks you to analyze the author’s argument by evaluating the claims and evidence presented to support the claim. Moreover, the writing section of GRE is scored on a scale of 0-6 in 0.5 point increments. 


  1. Quantitative Ability – The Quantitative Reasoning section is divided into two sections with 20 questions each, and you get 35 minutes to complete this section. The questions are designed to test your understanding of the basic high-school level math concepts. Besides, the quant section tests your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems, that are mainly from topics such as Algebra, Arithmetic, Geometry and Data Analysis. There are 4 types of questions that are either posed in a real-life setting or based on pure mathematics. The question types are:


  • Quantitative Comparison Questions – Quantitative Comparison questions present two quantities. You must carefully compare the two quantities and select one of four possible answer choices. These questions always have the same answer choices (quantity A is greater, quantity B is greater, the two quantities are equal or the relationship cannot be determined from the information given).
  • Multiple-choice Questions (Select One Answer ) – These are basic multiple-choice questions that are seen in most competitive exams. The questions could be word problems, equations or more, accompanied with answer choices. You must solve the problem and select one answer from the five answer choices. 
  • Multiple-choice Questions (Select One or More Answer) – These questions are different and more complicated than the classic MCQs. Each question presents a problem and you must choose all the possible answers from the answer choices. However, you will get scores only if all your selected answers are correct. While some questions specify how many answers you can pick, others leave that decision on you. 
  • Numeric Entry Questions – Numeric Entry presents questions without answer choices. Instead, you have to find the solution and type your response in the box given. If your solution is an integer or a decimal, you must type it in a single box, and if it is a fraction, you’ll be given separate boxes for the numerator and the denominator. 


In addition to these question types, there will be a set of questions called the Data Interpretation in the GRE Quantitative section. All the questions — asked in the form of Multiple-choice (both types) or Numeric Entry — from the set are based on the same data presented in tables, graphs or any other data representation.  


3.Verbal Reasoning – Verbal Reasoning consists of two separately timed sections with 20 questions each. The questions from the GRE verbal syllabus assess your ability to analyze and interpret a written discourse and integrate the information obtained from it. The section also tests your skill to understand the connections between the parts of a sentence and its words and concepts. You get 30 minutes to solve questions from each section of GRE Verbal Reasoning. The questions are of 3 types:


  • Reading Comprehension – Reading Comprehension questions test your abilities like understanding the meaning of words and sentences, summarizing a passage, or analyzing a text to draw conclusions from that. Each question presents a short passage based on any general topic. You must carefully examine the passage to answer the questions. 
  • Text Completion – Text Completion questions assess how well you interpret a text, analyze it and reason from what you have understood. Each question features a short passage which is five sentences long with 3 or 4 blanks. You must fill in these blanks by selecting the most appropriate option from a set of word choices given. 
  • Sentence Equivalence – The sentence equivalence section presents a single sentence with just one blank which has to be filled. You have to choose the two best choices that fit the meaning of the sentence. The questions aim to check your ability to identify words with similar meanings. 


The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is scored on a range of 130-170, in 1-point increments. This, along with the Quantitative score contributes to your overall GRE score. 

Besides these sections, you can expect an unidentified section or an identified research section in the GRE paper. These sections are unscored and are used for research purposes of ETS. 


The GRE syllabus for MS and GRE syllabus for CSE is the same as the above and tests your knowledge in Quant, Verbal and Analytical writing. 


GRE Subject Tests


Unlike the GRE General Test, the subject tests are content-specific and tests your knowledge of any particular field of studies such as Mathematics, Psychology, Chemistry or Physics. This test is taken if you wish to highlight your specialized knowledge in any of these areas of study. Besides, this test helps the admission committees to compare your qualifications with other applicants. The Subject tests are not a replacement for the general GRE exam. Instead, this test is taken in addition to the general test to show your expertise in a particular subject.


Not all schools require subject test scores. Hence, before applying for masters or PhD abroad, we recommend you inquire about the admission requirements of the universities of your choice. 


The syllabus of subject tests are vast and includes the concepts you’ve learnt at your undergraduate level. However, knowing the syllabus for the subject test you are going to appear for is pivotal to plan your preparation. To begin with, here’s a brief overview of the GRE Math and GRE Physics syllabus.


  • GRE Mathematics Syllabus


The GRE mathematics subject test measures your knowledge of basic elementary level mathematics and advanced concepts you’ve learnt in the undergraduate course. The test consists of 66 MCQ questions of which 25% are from elementary Algebra, and 50% focuses on calculus and its applications. Here’s a table that will help you understand the GRE mathematics syllabus in detail. 


Math Concept Percentage of Questions Topics asked
Algebra 25%
  • Elementary algebra
  • Linear Algebra (matrix algebra,vector spaces, systems of linear equations etc)
  • Abstract algebra
  • Number theory
Calculus 50%
  • Differential and integral calculus 
  • Differential equations
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Trigonometry
Additional Topics 25%
  • Introductory real analysis (Continuity, differentiability and integrability, etc.)
  • Discrete mathematics (graph theory, algorithms, combinators etc)
  • Other topics (probability and statistics, geometry etc)

  • GRE Physics Syllabus


The GRE Physics subject tests comprises 100 questions, of which some are based on experimental data, graphs, diagrams and descriptions of physical situations. The questions aim at testing your grasp of fundamental concepts in physics as well as your ability to apply these concepts to find solutions for the problems. Below is a table of the concepts and topics that are included in the GRE Physics syllabus.


Concept Percentage of Questions Topics
Classical Mechanics 20% Newton’s laws, Kinematics, work and energy, rotational motion about a fixed axis, oscillatory motion, central forces and celestial mechanics etc.
Electromagnetism 18% Electrostatics,magnetic fields in free space,  DC circuits, AC circuits, Lorentz force,Maxwell’s equations and their applications,  induction, electromagnetic waves etc.
Quantum Mechanics  12% Solutions of the Schrödinger equation, angular momentum, wave function symmetry etc.
Optics and Waves 9% Superposition, diffraction, interference, geometrical optics etc.
Thermodynamics And Statistical Mechanics 10% Laws of thermodynamics, thermal expansion and heat transfer, ideal gases, equations of state etc.
Atomic Physics 10% Properties of electrons, energy quantization, Bohr model, atomic structure, selection rules, atomic spectra, black-body radiation, x-rays etc. 
Special Relativity 6% Time dilation, length contraction,four-vectors and Lorentz transformation, energy and momentum, simultaneity etc. 
Laboratory Methods 6% Electronics, radiation detection, instrumentation, interaction of charged particles with matter, counting statistics, lasers and optical interferometers etc.
Specialized topics 9% Nuclear and Particle physics, Condensed Matter and other miscellaneous topics.


If you need more details regarding the syllabus, you can visit the official website of GRE.

We have outlined all the basic information regarding the GRE exam syllabus in this article. Whether you are appearing only for the general test or both, familiarizing yourself with the concepts asked helps you come up with a good study plan accordingly. Hence, use this article as a reference guide, create a plan that aligns with your strengths and weaknesses and start your GRE prep. Good luck!

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